News Release

A cost-efficient path to a renewable energy grid for Australia

Peer-Reviewed Publication

PNAS Nexus

Australia grid graphical abstract


Generation and multi-timescale storage requirements for renewable electricity grids in Australia for an interconnected eastern (National Electricity Market—NEM) and western (Wholesale Electricity Market—WEM) grid. Based on the sensitivity analysis of technology cost, additional generator capacities, power and energy capacities for each storage technology, and the associated investment are depicted.

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Credit: Shaikh et al

A model charts the most cost-efficient path to a fully renewable electricity grid for Australia. Raheel Ahmed Shaikh and colleagues modeled possible scenarios for Australia’s eastern and western grids, using solar and wind generation, short-to-long-term energy storage, and financial input data to explore low-cost capacity mix. Going completely renewable would require significant expansion of both generation and storage. Interconnecting the two grids would reduce generation capacity needs by 6% and storage power capacity needs by 14%. The least cost renewable-only grid would be dominated by wind, with between 50–75% of energy contributed by turbines. Storage would be mandatory for any fully renewable grid. Australia would need the ability to store up to four days of demand. That represents 13 times more storage power capacity and over 40 times more storage energy capacity than the country has at present, considering batteries, pumped hydro, and hydrogen storage. An 82% renewable grid would only require a fourfold increase in storage power capacity and a threefold increase in energy capacity. According to the authors, the optimal route to a fully renewable grid would require an investment of approximately A$130–150 billion, around 8–10% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product, assuming future technology development and cost reduction.

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